Why Your Opinion Doesn’t Matter When it Comes to Great Marketing

by Marcus Sheridan

marketing opinions

My opinion is that blogs are dumb…

That’s right, it doesn’t, and neither does mine.

Just look at the election for a second. Opinions and projections were incredibly diverse on both sides. Thoughts about which party and candidate had the most “momentum” kept coming up again and again.

Yet when all was said and done, none of those opinions mattered until the final votes were counted. Then, all of the sudden, some folks appeared smart, while others didn’t.

Such is life and such is marketing.

The final numbers are really the only thing that matters.

But It’s “Cool”

3 years ago, when I decided to embrace online marketing with my swimming pool company I was taking a hard look at my website and doing whatever I could to make it better. During this process, I learned that having a black background with white text (which I had) on a website was not good if you wanted your visitors reading a lot of text, as this combination is hard on the eyes.

When I read this information, although it did make sense (After all, when was the last time you read a book that had black pages and white text?) I had one big problem– I liked the way my website looked.

I thought the black background looked “cool.

I thought it looked professional.

And I didn’t see what the big deal would be.

But then I read the numbers and studied further and realized a very important point– my opinion about the color of the background didn’t matter. If I kept things the way they were, readers (potential customers) wouldn’t stay on the site as long to read because their eyes, without them even realizing it, would get tired and lose interest.

Eventually, I changed the background and font colors of my website, but looking back, my reasoning (personal opinions) for keeping the site the way it was for as long as I did was a seriously dumb one–and one that we see over and over again with business owners and marketers all over the world.

Opinions Equal the Death of Great Marketing

When it comes down to it, personal opinions kill successful marketing plans each and every single day. Take for example the business owner or marketer that…

  • says they “don’t read blogs” and therefore doesn’t want a company blog.
  • thinks “Facebook is for gossip and political rants” and therefore dismisses its utility.
  • believes “SEO doesn’t exist” and then misses countless opportunities for free web visitors.
  • is contrary to doing anything that doesn’t fall under “social media”—even though a proper Pay Per Click campaign would work in his/her market.
  • only wants to sound intelligent with their web copy instead of writing in a way that is personable, understandable, and gets results.
  • doesn’t listen to podcasts and therefore thinks having a podcast would be a complete waste of time.
  • refuses to change the copy in an ad even though a split-test has shown the copy is less effective

The examples go on and on and on.

And as one last example, I’ll use one from The Sales Lion.

For many, many months I’ve read articles and stats about the power of pop-ups for list building. Notwithstanding, each time I thought about having a pop-up on The Sales Lion, I rejected the idea.

Why?

Because I didn’t like them.

That was until I saw sites like Social Media Examiner, Content Marketing Institute, Amy Porterfield, and others using them—all with great success.

Amy Porterfield Pop Up

With great sites like this one from Amy Porterfield using Pop-Ups, I knew it was time to accept the positive results over my own opinions.

Finally, after swallowing my pride and opinions, I added a pop-up here on The Sales Lion. It’s not too annoying to regular readers because it only appears once every 30 days if someone has seen it already, but the results speak for themselves, with an additional 10-20 sign ups each day coming from the pop-up form alone, which means my newsletter list and the number of folks reading the eBook are growing at a really nice rate these days. (Note** The pop-up I use here is by Pippity (none aff.), and I’ve been very happy with it.)

The bottom line is this my friends—We’ve all got to get used to the idea that our opinions don’t really matter when it comes to smart marketing. The way we think, act, and talk isn’t the way others think, act, and talk.

And the moment we can separate the way we feel versus the actions and decisions that get real results, we’re going to be way, way more successful.

Your Turn

I’d love to hear about a time when you didn’t think something was a good idea yet you did it anyway and saw great results. Also, if you’re a marketer, how do you help business owners get over their opinions and biases so as to make sound marketing decisions?

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{ 46 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca Livermore November 9, 2012 at 9:59 am

Marcus,

One big problem with opinions is that it we’re not careful, even objective things are skewed by our opinions. As an example, with popups — someone who was dead set against popups and went into using them with a very negative opinion might still have a bad opinion of them after using them, in spite of the results.

For instance, they may get a single complaint from someone about the popup and use that as validation that using popups was a bad idea in spite of the fact that only one person complained and their list is growing. That person could wrongly come to the conclusion that “I tried popups and people hated them.”

It’s not always easy to truly get beyond our opinions, I think in part because we want to be right, and therefore may view things in a way that validates our opinions.

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Marcus Sheridan November 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Yep, good points Rebecca, kinda like self-fulfilling prophesies.

As for being right all the time…I think my wife might nod her head to that one ;-)

Thanks bud,

Marcus

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Jay Baer November 9, 2012 at 10:12 am

Exactly. Anecdotes aren’t research. Belief isn’t math. We’re all often guilty of making that mistake.

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Marcus Sheridan November 9, 2012 at 2:05 pm

“Belief isn’t math.” Hahaha, never heard that one, but dang do I love it bud!

btw, I should be shooting you an email tonight with a draft for review :-)

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Ryan Hanley November 10, 2012 at 11:13 am

I love “belief is math” that is a great sound bite and I couldn’t agree more. I speak to insurance professionals throughout the country about taking their marketing to the Online world and they all roll their eyes till I whip out my stats…

Not “Facebook has over 950 million…blah, blah” but when I actually show them my results.

Like Marcus has done with River Pools… That’s when action happens and everyone turns on their ears.

Facts, Stats, the Numbers…

Power.

Hanley

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Marcus Sheridan November 12, 2012 at 10:46 am

“Until I whip out my stats…”

Best content marketing ROI line of the year brother :-)

LOVE it.

Marcus

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Russ Henneberry November 9, 2012 at 10:41 am

Dude! Keep hitting us with this knowledge!

I have nothing to add except, Amen!

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Marcus Sheridan November 9, 2012 at 2:03 pm

“Amen” works for me Russ :-)

Hope you have a great weekend buddy and keep up your great work,

Marcus

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Eric Pratum November 9, 2012 at 10:50 am

I believe this is what you would call a “market of one.” I think things are a certain way, so everyone must think that.

Believe you me, being a marketer that has been managed by non-marketers before, I’ve dealt with this a ton. “We have to have an RSS link in our blog sidebar because no one thinks a blog is legitimate unless that’s there”… even though less than 6% of North Americans use RSS once a week or more. “Our emails have to have a thin header image because our numbers are low and real business don’t have large email headers”… even though you’ve got no data to back that up.

And yet, I, the analyst, gets overruled!

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Marcus Sheridan November 9, 2012 at 2:03 pm

93% of the world doesn’t use RSS Eric?? WTH??? ;-)

Dude, I bet you could probably write an entire book on this one subject alone!

Hope you’re doing well out there my friend,

Marcus

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Eric Pratum November 9, 2012 at 2:09 pm

Ha! This is pretty much how I react: http://inboundandagile.com/yeah-thats-right/

Thanks, Marcus!

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Dan Bischoff November 9, 2012 at 11:30 am

Having been recently managed by a VP of marketing that was a traditional marketer with no experience in social media, public relations and content marketing, this post strikes a chord. The conflict stemmed from what was very similar to the bullet points you list above.

This also makes me think of a really good recent post by Hugo Guzman on why a truly great marketer is capable of admitting mistakes: http://www.hugoguzman.com/2012/11/a-truly-great-marketer-is-capable-of-admitting-that-theyre-dead-wrong-sometimes/

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Marcus Sheridan November 9, 2012 at 1:59 pm

You mean we’re supposed to admit when we’re wrong Dan?? What the heck is wrong with you dude!??? ;-)

Seriously though, amen to your point, and sorry you were managed in that way, but it’s great you’ve moved on bud.

Keep doing great things,

Marcus

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Leon Streete November 9, 2012 at 11:30 am

Hi Sheridan, I think your post is spot on, targets logic versus emotion, which is often where the indecision lies for most.

Like you’ve pointed out, unless you test something and get a result there’s no way to truly know what will work for you unless you get stuck in.

Just like when I first learnt to drive. I had a process of how to drive from my instructor (Others had opinions), I learnt some skills (Found what worked for me) then realised how to drive by passing my test (Campaign Started), but the real success came after passing – driving on my own (Split testing :-) ).

Thanks for sharing.

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Marcus Sheridan November 9, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Yep, that’s it Leon, this is much about allowing logic to win over emotion–even though most of us are emotional people, myself included.

Appreciate your thoughts man,

Marcus

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Jason Hull November 9, 2012 at 11:59 am

Be careful that you don’t allow your biases to affect your data. Let’s take your popup offer test. If I hated popups, then it’s quite easy for me to create a test where the popup was doomed to fail. I could then go to the numbers (lies, damn lies, and statistics), and jump up and down, pointing “see! Popups suck!” and the data would support my point.

It’s not just A/B testing, but it’s setting up valid A/B testing without inherent biases. It was a struggle we went through all of the time at Capital One, when we’d test different activities on the phone menu. You have to pick the right set of test subjects (e.g. a representative sample size) and measure the intended outcome, not just the immediate result. For example, I might get you to call and self-service on the phone instead of talking to an agent, but if you were a profitable customer who then cancelled the card because you couldn’t get through to a human, I optimized for the wrong variable.

Being aware of your opinion matters, as it can greatly influence the numbers which come out from it.

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Marcus Sheridan November 9, 2012 at 1:57 pm

Very interesting points Jason–real world stuff–which is the kind of stuff I love to read.

Appreciate you stopping by man,

Marcus

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iGoByDoc November 9, 2012 at 2:13 pm

What an awesome post saying it the way it is. And so timely as well.

Opinions not only do not matter, but the bottleneck and grinding halt that comes to a project with too many options drive me insane!

I’ll take ideas, and to a point opinions, but someone has to have balls to just pull the trigger. Data wins every debate.

In digital marketing, if you are not testing daily many different tactics, you may as well close up shop and apply for a position at Walmart as a door greeter.

Thanks for the post… Glad I found you via Jay Baer and your episode on SocialPros!

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Marcus Sheridan November 12, 2012 at 10:58 am

Doc, totally down with what you’re saying man. Have balls…pull trigger. Amen brother ;-)

And so glad you made it by sir, Jay Baer is simply one of the best. :-)

Marcus

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Rich McElaney November 9, 2012 at 2:17 pm

I think you need to put an asterisk next to the word Marketing in your post title and add the disclaimer line: “Unless you’re the one signing the checks”.

We all run into this issue (and as Jay points out we’re often guilty of it ourselves) and I think it’s driven by two key things: fear and ego.

With the pace of change and the range of choices in marketing today, it’s very easy to feel under-informed and out of touch – and that causes fear. You can’t expect many bold choices to be made in that state of mind.

As far as ego is concerned, it’s unfortunate that many of the check writers have greater than healthy doses of it and logic doesn’t often prevail in those situations.

I completely agree with you though – the good news is that results are the ultimate antidote to misguided opinions.

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Marcus Sheridan November 12, 2012 at 10:57 am

Ego? Did someone mention Ego?

I’ve seen no such thing out there with all these biz owners Rich McElaney! ;-)

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Jared Broussard November 9, 2012 at 11:01 pm

In my television ad experience, we called it the “Polo Theory”. A High Powered executive back in the day at Goodyear refused to purchase afternoon programs for the Goodyear Television Campaign. This, despite the fact that the target market was female. His reasoning (or lack thereof) was that no one was watching television in the afternoons, because they were all playing polo. So, I guess we all fall into the trap of, “If I do this one thing or think one way about a certain website, isn’t that the way we all should think”. So, I guess our poor (or rich) guy at Goodyear thought that everyone played Polo in the afternoon. Perfectly logical. I am off to play polo.

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Marcus Sheridan November 12, 2012 at 10:53 am

Hahaha, yes, I do believe Polo just passed the NFL as the country’s most popular sport, didn’t it Jared?? ;-)

Thanks for dropping by bud,

Marcus

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John Verba November 9, 2012 at 11:58 pm

I love this subject, mostly because when I was 24, I walked out of a meeting with The Baltimore Sun, in which I’d made many brilliant observations and had lots of heads nodding, and Hal Donofrio, the agency president who’d built the second largest agency in town from nothing, turned to me and said, “John, nobody cares what you think; they care what you know.”

And that changed everything in very good ways. (You know you always have to have your sources ready; so you read like crazy, beg to see response tracking spreadsheets, and really learn to love the concept of cause-and-effect.) And if I needed any reminders to do all that through the years, I’d always have, say, the co-owner of BOSS Staffing saying something like, “Well, I like this one, but I’m a 50-something corporate executive, so I’m not the target market.” Or if you’re writing for Booz Allen, you might have a three-star general say, “Tell us what to do; you’re here because you’re the expert.” (Which REALLY wants you to make sure you KNOW.)

And then there’s always the people at big nonprofits who assure you that personalized address labels are the last things they want to mail, and the last things they’d ever respond to, but the highest earners they’ve ever tested, and they’ve been testing and tracking and fine tuning for a long, long time.

And seeing the opposite helps, too. I got to do work for small national associations in DC that will never have the budgets to test anything, and to be told: The executive director likes purple; They all “know” that association copy has to sound “VERY professional and intellectual”; and…Whatever’s written, it has to get past six regional presidents, none of whom have marketing backgrounds.

So if you have the choice, be the one who knows, and do the things you can cite white papers (or, better yet, experience) about. Get to know the name MarketingSherpa (and Anne Holland, who built it and is now building http://www.whichtestwon.com.) And, for goodness sake, at SOME point, stop asking, “Why won’t you try this, are you dumb?” and start saying, “Look, here’s what Bazaarvoice, Mass Relevance and (well, whoever’s delivering ROI for small businesses in the social realm is doing); emulate it and be smart.”

Like, to me, all the bulleted points in your article fall under “What Marcus thinks,” because they’re presented with no supporting material, and the pop-up falls under “What Marcus knows,” and it gets extra points for “that he didn’t really want to know.” ; )

After all , the things that make the big differences in any type of exceptional business success are the last things most people ever want to do. I’ve seen that over and over and over.

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Krista Kotrla November 10, 2012 at 12:22 am

Such a great lesson… Sometimes “ugly” works. The goal is results.

Toying around with different call-to-action buttons has certainly proven that point. The ones I originally thought hideous actually get better results.

So the important part is identifying the specific results you want and not losing sight of that.

It’s funny how when “ugly” works it becomes a beautiful thing.

–kk

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Marcus Sheridan November 12, 2012 at 10:52 am

Isn’t that funny? CTAs continue to mystify me. We’ve created some seriously ugly ones before at River Pools that absolutely crushed it.

Ahhh, the science of marketing to the human mind ;-)

Marcus

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April Greer November 10, 2012 at 2:13 am

Marcus,

Again – great read!

I was almost devastated to hear you chose pop-ups, but when you mentioned it only pops up every 30 days I was relieved…I HATE the pop-up when I’ve already signed up that I must click on every time I visit. But once per month isn’t awful. (Going to try it.)

I’ve updated my blog to have a white background with dk grey text, too. It used to be green with white text, but it was just too exhausting to read.

Thanks for the great advice!

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Marcus Sheridan November 12, 2012 at 10:51 am

Trust me April, it’s a debate I had as well, but in hindsight I really should have done it sooner, and at this point, the pop ups providers out there are really, really good, with plenty of ways to control the look, feel, frequency, etc.

Thanks for all you support April!

Marcus

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Rob Metras November 10, 2012 at 9:37 am

I have long had a personal slogan Marcus ” Believe in your own b.s. act at your own peril”

Wise marketers constantly test and evaluate, almost like an iterative process until they get it where they want it. Then they keep asking more. If you do not test and observe you cannot grow.

It doesn’t matter what I think; it matters if the customer/prospect takes the next logical step and if I have greased the skids properly so that there is no impediments to that path. That is the beauty about the web.

Several of the great thinkers on this subject are Avinash Kaushik, the Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google and author of Web Analytics 2.0-The Art of Online Accountability & Science of Customer Centricity and Bryan Eisenberg, author of the book “Always be Testing”. They would be good library additions to anyone doing digital marketing.

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Marcus Sheridan November 12, 2012 at 10:49 am

Rob, great comment my friend and love the recommendations too.

To testing my friend!

Marcus

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Susan Tatum November 10, 2012 at 9:50 am

Marcus,

Over the last ten years, the ability to test, track and prove what’s working and what’s not working has saved me endless hours of time wasted in meetings listening to high level managers and executives argue about which blue to use in the logo and whether or not it’s big enough. I tell them all the same thing – it doesn’t matter what you think. Let your visitors and buyers tell you what they like. And there’s tons of research already compiled to show you were to start.

Best,

Susan

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Marcus Sheridan November 12, 2012 at 10:48 am

Susan, dang girl, that’s an awesome comment and I’d love to be on the same team with you some day!!!

Keep being a leader,

Marcus

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Lana November 10, 2012 at 10:32 am

Hi Marcus,

As always great information. I just completed an Amy Portetfield course and she did discuss pop-ups. She has her pop ups spread out as well. I need to consider this for my website, and what I would offer in the pop-up. Any suggestions for a real estate company?

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Marcus Sheridan November 12, 2012 at 10:47 am

I’d suggest some type of buying guide specific to your area Lana. Like: 10 Major Mistakes Consumers Make Buying a Home in Northern Virginia…..or something like that.

Make sense?

Marcus

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Lana November 12, 2012 at 11:10 am

Thanks Marcus

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Mark November 10, 2012 at 12:01 pm

Hey Marcus,

When you go beyond establishing a personal brand & developing relationships and begin to look at your blog as a business, there will be some decisions you make based on good business sense and not personal preference.

Most of your customers are looking for you to tell them what to do anyhow; so you might as well get them into listening and taking action mode right from the get go – HAHA!

Happy Saturday to you bro!

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Marcus Sheridan November 12, 2012 at 10:40 am

That’s exactly it Mark, and I think many if not all bloggers have to face this at some point—either we choose to “please” or we choose to make the most sound business move.

I can tell you, the pendulum swings toward the latter for me.

Thanks so much for stopping by my friend,

Marcus

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mark peditto November 10, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Speaking of pop ups. How about getting the new inventory build your pool online form up on your pool site. It has been reconstructed to include all new leisure models. Should be live in about a week. Get in touch brother. Thanks

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Marcus Sheridan November 12, 2012 at 10:38 am

Hahahaha, you’re right Peditto, I owe you a call brother!!! My bad!!!

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John Verba November 11, 2012 at 6:43 pm

I wrote this in Facebook and then also thought it fit in well here, under this subject:

Anyone out there whose work involves an audience — listen up marketers, writers, visual artists, and musicians, actors, producers and the like — could learn a lot from the magicians of the world.

Those folks plan out what they want people to experience, and then perfect every detail of preparation, and then practice it (through their tedium), and, when they’re done, can they then look at it themselves and announce, “This is perfect”?

No. That conclusion ends up wholly in the hands (hearts/minds) of the audience. Whatever the magician has done, and however hard he’s worked, it’s still up to the audience to tell him that they’re either dazzled, or that they see the thread or wire or well-practiced technique that creates the illusion…and if they see that, then sure, they appreciate all the work, but it’s not magic.

In the end, it’s not the planning, practice and preparation; it’s the magic. It’s not the creative words; it’s the meaning. It’s not the impressive notes; it’s the feeling. It’s not what we put into it; it’s what they get out of it. And it’s never our place to explain to them what they missed, but only to go back to work and bring it all together better, so as much of the audience as possible will never miss the magic again.

We want them to see it, and to not see it. Then it’s magic.

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Marcus Sheridan November 12, 2012 at 10:37 am

Great analogy John. I’ve heard of some pretty successful business people studying magicians and their habits– and I’m guessing that’s the exact reason!

Thanks,

Marcus

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Bella November 11, 2012 at 9:06 pm

Marcus,

Brilliant as always! I always hear, but the person who called me liked my website. And I say, yeah? Well what about the people who DIDN’T call you? It goes with the same thought process of you are not always your client and that is OKAY. t is why color’s matter and why research matters. Thank you for writing this. I am sharing with the pet sitters! :)

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Felicia November 13, 2012 at 12:01 pm

This is a great post, and honestly one that a lot of marketers need to read! I am right there with you with the pop-ups, every time I see one I think, “get out of my face!” But obviously you’re seeing results, so not everyone thinks they’re annoying, at least if the information they could get from signing up is relevant and interesting to them. I’m doing an SEO project for school, and at first I wanted to have a tumblr page as my landing page instead of a blog, because I never keep up with blogs, but less than a week into the project I realized that I need something better so I got a blogspot blog. Since I made the switch and also did a few other things, I’ve had great results :)

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Marcus Sheridan November 16, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Felicia, great points, and good for you for being able to separate your opinion from making the right choice to get the best results—something so many simply don’t do.

Keep up the great work!!

Marcus

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Kim March 1, 2014 at 10:15 am

Brilliant – this 1 phrase hit me like a ton of bricks. “When it comes down to it, personal opinions kill successful marketing plans each and every single day.” Thanks for sharing in a “I want to help you and I’m one of you” kind of way.

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Julian March 9, 2014 at 6:25 am

In addition to this,they are also able to pull the motor bike
in case of any emergency problem. People that aare curious to learn much more should not feel hindered from
calling a local company and asiing them any questions that they might
have to ask. One obstacle can be having to hire a large truck which can be expensive.

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